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Senior Israeli diplomatic officials breathed easier Monday evening after the 27 EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels did not change the EU's relationship with the Palestinian Authority as a result of the Mecca agreement.
The EU foreign ministers issued a statement at the end of their monthly meeting welcoming the agreement, saluting Saudi Arabia for its efforts in bringing it about, and stating that the "EU stands ready to work with a legitimate Palestinian government that adopts a platform reflecting the Quartet principles and welcomed the Quartet statement of February 9."
The Quartet statement of February 9 stated clearly that it expected the PA to accept three benchmarks - recognizing Israel, forswearing terrorism and accepting previous agreements, including the road map.
"What is important from our perspective is that there was no change in the EU's position, even in light of the Mecca agreement," a senior diplomatic official said. He said the EU "basically agrees with Israel and the American position" that a wait-and-see attitude must be taken to the Mecca agreement, and that it was too early to change policy toward the PA without having a clear understanding of what the unity government's basic guidelines would be.
The diplomatic officials said Germany, Britain and Holland played important roles in ensuring that the EU's position would not change at this time. France and Finland were leading in the opposite direction, and outside the EU both Russia and Norway have said that following the Mecca deal the time has come to lift the economic boycott of the PA.
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Sultanov is scheduled to arrive in Israel on Wednesday for two days of talks.
Diplomatic officials in Jerusalem also expressed satisfaction that the Mughrabi issue was not mentioned at all in the statement, even though some EU countries wanted to see the matter addressed.
Israel's diplomatic blitz to ensure that the EU would not use the Mecca agreement as a green light to change its relationship with the PA was led by Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, who was in Spain and Germany over the weekend. She met and spoke by phone with a large number of her European counterparts about the need to remain firm regarding the Quartet's three principles.
The EU foreign ministers also expressed their "full support" for the upcoming trilateral meeting between Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, and "encouraged the Israeli and Palestinian leaders to launch a process with the goal of ending the occupation that began in 1967 and creating an independent, democratic and viable Palestinian state, living side-by-side in peace and security with Israel."
Olmert talked early Monday morning with Rice, as well as with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, discussing the upcoming trilateral meeting, the Mecca agreement and the Mughrabi issue.
Olmert told the Knesset Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday that the purpose of the upcoming trilateral meeting "is not about a final-status agreement. It was agreed that we will talk about political horizons to realize [US President George W.] Bush's vision of two states for two peoples. And this will be done under the obligations of the road map, and according to its stages."